Innovation Strategies

We provide opportunities to further enrich innovation and entrepreneurship at the Department of Surgery. Additionally, traditional funding models are often limited with respect to time and scope in their ability to support all aspects of academic research with rapid dissemination into practice.

Dr. Vemuri presenting at SIDAC
Dr. Cohen and Dr. Buchman talking at the SIDAC
Surgical Innovation Prize Shark Tank-style Grand Rounds

The Michigan Surgical Innovation Program

The mission of the Michigan Innovation Prize is to cultivate and enhance innovation and entrepreneurship in the Department of Surgery through innovations which advance the care of surgical patients. Despite the integral role innovation plays in a surgeon's practice, surgeons are not often provided with formal education and dedicated time to develop new ideas. This Prize establishes Michigan’s Department of Surgery as the premier institution in the nation for developing surgical innovations. The Michigan Surgical Innovation Prize fund of $500,000 is awarded to outstanding surgical innovations from teams that have excelled through a department-sponsored Surgical Innovation Development Accelerator Course. An oversight committee made up of faculty experts in and out of the Department of Surgery, as well as engineering, industry leaders, and venture capital partners, reviews team proposals and executive summaries, and it provides content expertise, oversight and expert diligence regarding funding decisions and the proper use of funds. The first round of the prize was awarded in August 2018 to six teams, and over 40 participants, ranging from faculty members across the university to surgical residents and medical students, explored the process of developing surgical technologies as a result of this the first Michigan Surgical Innovation Prize and SIDAC course.

Funding provided by the prize is awarded through the Surgical Innovation Development Accelerator Course (SIDAC). SIDAC calls for innovation proposals that address a surgical disease or improve the care of surgical patients. Teams can be comprised of any discipline; however, each team must have a surgical faculty/resident/fellow as principal investigator. From the initial round of submissions, the top 10-15 submissions are invited to go through an innovation educational curriculum to help de-risk and develop the ideas. Innovators, along with their teams, complete formal innovation education and enhance their value proposition, evaluate market and customer opportunities and advance their ideas through mentorship, feedback, and coaching with the end goal of giving a formal pitch to venture capitalists at the end of the course.

Accelerated Business Engagement and Contract Research

The Department of Surgery, in conjunction with the Fast Forward Medical Innovation team and the Business Engagement Center, has developed a new approach modeled by Contract Research Offices to identify opportunities for fee-for-service contracts with industry partners. The advantages of the Accelerated Business Engagement program include the potential to conclude contracts much more rapidly than the usual sponsored research approach; to generate revenue which may be directly reinvested into the medical enterprise; to maximize the value produced by high-capacity laboratories with surplus available effort; and to offset the ongoing stagnation of funding from traditional federal sources such as the NIH. The overarching goal of this new model of industry engagement is to find opportunities to effectively utilize excess research capacity to generate funding which may be reinvested in the primary investigator’s laboratory – helping to defray operational expenses, acquisition of equipment, and supplies. The University of Michigan delivers quality, unique assets, integrity, and reproducibility as part of its established brand. Companies will benefit from our unique expertise to evaluate their assets in UM models. Templates for two types of agreements are available (a “Research Agreement” and a “Service Agreement”) in conjunction with the Office of Sponsored Research, the Office of Technology Transfer, the Office of General Counsel, and the Fast Forward Medical Innovation’s Business Development Team. 

Directed Sabbatical Time

Although academic surgeons are more productive than ever by many metrics, the time and logistical barriers of our current structure threaten creativity, autonomy, and innovation. Traditionally, academic productivity has occurred in defined spaces, with periodic opportunities for innovation through year-long sabbaticals, relying on federal or private/philanthropic foundation funding to advance science. However, sabbatical time is now uncommon among academic physicians, and particularly surgeons, due to increasing clinical demands, and the complexity of clinical care. 

The goal of the Directed Sabbatical Time is to enable faculty to devote focused time away from the daily operational tasks of clinical surgery in the pursuit of professional improvement and productive scholarship. Directed Sabbatical Time occurs away from standard teaching, administrative, and clinical duties to pursue a professional interest best accomplished through a dedicated period of full immersion.

Upon completion, faculty will share their experiences with the Department of Surgery faculty, contributing to a virtuous cycle for faculty life.

The Directed-Sabbatical program is an opportunity for faculty to spend dedicated time toward developing their clinical, academic, or educational interests over an 8-week period. During this time, faculty are excused from clinical duties in order to provide time for immersion and deepening one’s knowledge and interests in the topic of their choice: 

  • Each Section and/or Division are encouraged to nominate at least one applicant per cycle, and multiple candidates may be nominated.
  • One applicant per cycle will be chosen from each Section/Division.
  • Priority will be given to Sections/Divisions who have not previously participated.
  • The total duration of the mini-sabbatical remains 8 weeks with the intention that participants will use 2 blocks of 4 weeks or 1 block of 8 weeks.
  • The total duration of the mini-sabbatical must be taken within 2 academic years.

How to Apply


  • Eligible to all Department of Surgery faculty across all tracks and levels.
  • Eligibility begins in the 3rd year of appointment at the University of Michigan.
  • The Chair of Surgery has final approval for faculty participation.


An application will be considered complete when the following are received by the Office of Faculty and Resident Life:

  • Application
  • C.V.
  • Documentation from hosting site/individual approving the collaboration
  • Detailed budget of up to $25,000 for expenses, travel, lodging and per diem in accordance with University of Michigan travel guidelines

Applications are due in March for participation from July through June.

Please send the completed applications and requested additional documentation to Please call the Office of Faculty and Resident Life at 734-232-0517 with questions.